Elena Renken

Contributing Writer

A hollow, cylindrical skeleton formed from a lattice of glass strands shown against a black background.
Abstractions blog

The Curious Strength of a Sea Sponge’s Glass Skeleton

January 11, 2021

A glass sponge found deep in the Pacific shows a remarkable ability to withstand compression and bending, on top of the sponge’s other unusual properties.

Looping video that shows transformations between African cichlid species.
Abstractions blog

New Fish Data Reveal How Evolutionary Bursts Create Species

December 1, 2020

In three bursts of adaptive change, one species of cichlid fish in Lake Tanganyika gave rise to hundreds.

Fluorescent cross-section of a mouse’s brain.
Abstractions blog

Brain Cell DNA Refolds Itself to Aid Memory Recall

November 2, 2020

Researchers see structural changes in genetic material that allow memories to strengthen when remembered.

Spindly green star-shaped cells against a black background.
Abstractions blog

Glial Brain Cells, Long in Neurons’ Shadow, Reveal Hidden Powers

January 27, 2020

The glial cells of the nervous system have been eclipsed in importance by neurons for decades. But glia are turning out to be central to many neurological functions, including pain perception.

Illustration of brain formed by bubbles.
Abstractions blog

Sleeping Brain Waves Draw a Healthy Bath for Neurons

December 16, 2019

An organized tide of brain waves, blood and spinal fluid pulsing through a sleeping brain may flush away neural toxins that cause Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

Illustration
neuroscience

How Microbiomes Affect Fear

December 4, 2019

New studies help to explain how microbes in the gut can shape a host’s fear responses.

A Tsimané man plays an instrument resembling a violin.
Abstractions blog

Perceptions of Musical Octaves Are Learned, Not Wired in the Brain

October 30, 2019

Singing experiments with residents of the Bolivian rainforest demonstrate how biology and experience shape the way we hear music.

Animation of one icon tracing a wave pattern over a brain, followed by another icon that erases the pattern.
neuroscience

Dueling Brain Waves Anchor or Erase Learning During Sleep

October 24, 2019

While we sleep, one kind of slow brain wave helps to reinforce memories, but a competing wave weakens them.

About the author

Elena Renken is a science writer based in New York. She is a former editor-in-chief of the Brown Daily Herald at Brown University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in science, technology and society. She has made videos for PBS NOVA, reported for The Providence Journal and written for SciLine, the communications service of AAAS.